Why Mike Richards’ Demotion May Be a Blessing in Disguise for Los Angeles Kings

One week ago, Mike Richards was mired in a rut. He’d failed to register a point in his last six contests and appeared well on his way to hitting rock bottom.

With each passing game spent on Los Angeles’ second line alongside Jeff Carter and the revolving door at left wing, the hole grew more cavernous. There was seemingly no digging out of this one.

He—and the Kings, who had gained a mere two points from their last four games—needed a jolt.

With his squad in a dogged playoff race in the Western Conference, head coach Darryl Sutter recognized the desperate situation and resorted to an equally desperate measure: starting Richards, an established top-six talent, on the fourth line.

Not only did the bench boss wake his center from his slumber, he also—inadvertently or not—uncovered the potential for a deep, dangerous lineup with Richards lower in the depth chart.

Granted, Richards hasn’t seen a traditional fourth-liner’s minutes over the past three games.

Thanks to his prowess on special teams and jack-of-all-trades skill set, he’s been plugged into spot duty in crucial situations. The result? His ice time against the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals amounted to 14:45, 16:16 and 16:56, respectively.

He’s averaged a whisker more than 17 minutes per game on the season.

Nevertheless, the demotion on paper sent a message, and the veteran received it loud and clear. He’s notched two goals in the past three contests after only mustering nine over his previous 70.

Moreover, he’s been far more noticeable in all three zones, battling more feverishly in the corners, backchecking more diligently and creating far more opportunities on attack.

Sutter was clever in his line combinations, pairing Richards with Trevor Lewis. Any old shake-up wouldn&rs...

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